MR. MONCASTER (President and CEO, World Affairs Council of Seattle): Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome. My name is Ian Moncaster. I’m the President of the World Affairs Council. I’m very, very pleased to have you join us in our ongoing conversation about the world and our role in it.
The World Affairs Council wants to make a difference in how this community thinks and talks about global issues. We do this through our community programs, our International Visiting Leadership Program, and our Global Classroom, an award-winning program which teaches – talks about international education and the global community. We develop programs that explore the role of the US in the world, and we try very, very hard to focus on authentic voices.
Over the past couple years, the council has developed a number of programs exploring the US role with the Islamic world. We’ve done a whole program featuring women writers from the Arab world. We brought in women – three women from Palestine and Israel, an Arab, a Jew and a Muslim, talking about their hopes for peace and the future, and what are the commonalities and what’s different.
We’ve done a whole curriculum looking at something called Beyond Islam, looking at Muslims in America, in Europe, in Pakistan and in China. How do we break down the perceptions? How do we have a broader conversation about the role of the U.S. in the world and where we fit?
We did some very, very interesting work looking at institutionalized racism, looking at the treatment of Japanese-Americans pre-World War II, bring it forward to Kosovo, Rwanda, Arab-Americans post-9/11, and put – were able to create conversations in which we had a 75-year-old Japanese man stand up in front of a classroom and say, "When I was 13, let me tell you what happened to me," and then bring it forward to explore that issue with the teachers and the students.
We do things like the World Citizen Essay Contest. You may have seen it. The question this year was, “If you were a diplomat, which country would you represent and what issue?” We’ve had hundreds of kids get involved in that conversation, and there are awards for kids grades three through six, seven through nine, 10 through 12.
We’ve done some particularly interesting things, I think, with International Visiting Leaders Program. We’ve had this group, for example, of imams from Uzbekistan who came over to learn about cultural and religious pluralism. How do we think about that in the United States? And although they met with various religious leaders and had an interface dialogue, we also took them down the Union Gospel Mission on a Friday night, where they served food, learning about all sides of the U.S. experience.
This afternoon, we’re going to be able to explore the conversations about the Saudi and the U.S. relationships, looking at the potential for progress in developing the relationship and the kingdom’s recent ascension to the World Trade Organization as well as the changes and challenges in Saudi society and culture, which will further integrate the kingdom into the global community. We’re going to have this conversation with an authentic voice, His Royal Highness Prince Turki Al-Faisal, ambassador to the United States.
We were able to bring these programs to you because of our members and of our sponsors, and I’d like to thank today our sponsors, who are Aero Law Group, the Boeing Company and Microsoft for helping us to bring this conversation to us all.
We’re going to start off, and we’re going to start off by introducing our moderator, someone who’s well known to everyone in this room, Governor Gary Locke. The bio is included in your program.
What I think is particularly interesting about Gary is that while he was in office, he was a strong proponent of education, strengthening the economy and improving the transportation system as well as the business climate. He’s currently on the advisory council of the World Affairs Council to help us think about what are the issues about which we as a community need to be thinking. He also received a 2004 World Citizen Award from the World Affairs Council in particular for his role in shrinking the international business ties of Washington – (inaudible) – abroad, particularly with regard to Mexico and China.
Thank you, Gary, for being with us here today.
Our speaker is His Royal Highness Prince Turki Al-Faisal, Ambassador to the United States. Prince Turki was born in Makkah, and he is the youngest son of the late King Faisal of Saudi Arabia. After completing his education at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, the prince was appointed an advisor to the Royal Court of Saudi Arabia in 1973. We’re fortunate that we have a number of Georgetown graduates here in the audience today.
The prince then served as a Director General of the General Intelligence Directorate, which is the Kingdom’s foreign intelligence service, from 1977 to 2001. In 2003, Prince Turki was appointed Ambassador to the U.K. and Ireland, where he served until he was appointed the Ambassador to the United States on July 20th last year. He made an interesting comment in which he said, you know, the embassy staff keep on saying, “Well, you need to get out, you need get out.”
So he’s actually been in a number of communities exploring the US - Saudi relationship, and I know is particularly interested in the questions that we’ll come up with this afternoon.
In addition to being a diplomat, his philanthropic interests include social justice and promoting understanding between religions through dialogue and discussion. He’s a founding board member of the King Faisal Foundation, the chairman of the Board of the King Faisal Center for Religious and Islamic Studies, as well as the Prince Charles Visual Islamic and Traditional Art Center. He’s the co-chair of the C-100 Group, an organization that is affiliated with the World Economic Forum, which strives to promote interfaith dialogue.
While Prince Turki speaks this afternoon, please jot down the questions on the little white question card that was in your program. After his formal presentation, Governor Locke will moderate the brief discussion up here, and then your questions will be brought forward. They’ll be sorted into different categories to make sure that we get a broader conversation about the various issues in the US relationship – US-Saudi relationship.
At this point, please join me in welcoming His Royal Highness Prince Turki Al-Faisal of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the podium.
PRINCE TURKI Al-FAISAL: Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. (In Arabic.)
Ladies and gentlemen, tonight I shall be “Sleepless in Seattle.” (Laughter.) But unlike Tom Hanks, actually I have a wife and she’s in Saudi Arabia, and that’s why I shall be pining for her tonight.
I’d also like to recognize the wonderful eighth-graders from one of our local schools who took the opportunity to come and join us today. (Applause.) And the Saudi students.
I would like to thank the Seattle World Affairs Council, as well as Boeing and the Aero Law Group and Microsoft, for putting this event together.
My thanks also go to Governor Locke for joining us and moderating this meeting. And also I would like to thank you for your kindness and hospitality.
As you may know, it is Saudi hospitality to greet our guests with our own Arabic coffee. And Seattle seems to have a similar tradition. In the Kingdom, we infuse ours with cardamom and serve it in very small cups. And at Starbucks, I believe you call it a Doppio.
Normally, as far afield Saudis go with our coffee is Turkish coffee, but in Seattle, though, everyone seems to have a very strong opinion about where their coffee beans are grown. Sumatra and Ethiopia seem to be popular. But I think you should try Arabic coffee. And that’s a business tip for some of you here.
Ladies and gentlemen, I’ll make sure to make my remarks brief so that there is plenty of time for any questions that you may have.
I first came to the United States at the age of 14. My parents sent me here to be educated at a boarding school in New Jersey. And I remember when I went to school on the first day, a young boy came up to me, slapped me on the back and introduced himself. I introduced myself in return, and from that point on, he just kept asking me questions: Where are you from? What is it like? How many members of the family you have? What kind of house do you live in? Do you ride a camel or not? Do you live in a tent or not?
And he was very much like the Bedouins when they meet in the desert – very engaging and very appealing and very inquisitive. But that interaction made me feel at home immediately.
I believe this is the type of feeling Saudis have had for Americans since we first developed our relations some 70 years ago. Long before our governments formed official and strategic relations, citizens of both our countries were forming friendships and business partnerships on their own. We found that despite some of the cultural differences we have, we are in fact a great deal alike. We’re plainspoken and straightforward, and we both believe in the importance of faith and family.
In Washington State, there are many businesses that exhibit our shared values, and many of them do business in the kingdom. I mentioned Starbucks earlier, and Starbucks is a great example of a company that promotes a sense of community. They believe in the importance of building mutually beneficial relationships with their coffee farmers and local communities. The company brings with it a sense of global citizenship to every country in which it operates. And there are 40 Starbucks operating in the Kingdom.
But we also have Boeing operating in the Kingdom, and Boeing simply connects us. That is a metaphor unto itself. And over the years, literally hundreds of thousands of Saudis have connected with the US through education, health care, commerce, or simply to visit. The long-standing relationships we formed as a result of this have made all of the difference in bridging the gaps of understanding between our cultures when difficult times have arisen.
There is also Microsoft. Here is an example of a business pushing the forefront of education. The technology they develop improves how we communicate, do business and learn. They’ve also made commitments to provide technology access and skills training to people around the world underserved by technology.
King Abdullah has his own education vision. Saudi Arabia has undertaken a strategic multi-year program to improve the level of education in the kingdom to be competitive internationally. This program emphasizes critical thinking, mathematics and science.
We are also making investments in the information technology sector in Saudi Arabia to ensure our citizens are adequately prepared for living and doing business in the modern global economy.
We in Saudi Arabia understand the importance of our place in the global community and we are working diligently to enhance how we are contributing.
Recently we joined the World Trade Organization. This will not only bring many opportunities to the Saudi people by opening up our country to increased foreign trade, but it will also allows us to better combat poverty and destitution throughout the world, which is commensurate with the Islamic tradition of outreach and charity.
Today we are making investments to maintain the important people- to-people contact that has been the hallmark of the Saudi-U.S. relationship. The Saudi government is currently sending its students to attend colleges and universities abroad to learn, make friends, and experience foreign cultures. Already 10,000 students are signed up for full four-year scholarships, and most of them are coming to the United States. Such relationships will ensure that we continue to have positive and mutually beneficial relations now and in the future.
I thank you all for being so supporting of the relations between our countries and for joining me here today. It’s quite a privilege to see so many of you in this hall, and I’m very gratified by that. And I would be glad to take any questions that you may have.
Thank you very much.
MR. LOCKE (Former Governor Gary Locke, D-Washington): Are our microphones on? I guess they are.
PRINCE TURKI: I guess so.
MR. LOCKE: Again, Your Royal Highness, welcome to the other Washington.
PRINCE TURKI: (Laughs.)
MR. LOCKE: You presented your credentials a few months ago in Washington, DC. Your assignment to the United States as Ambassador is not complete until you visit the true Washington – (laughter) – the real Washington and the real America.
I know that – encourage all of our audience members to start filling out any questions that you might have, and raise your hands, so that the people walking around the audience from the World Affairs Council can collect those cards. And we’ll try to make sure that we get to those questions.
I’d like to just start while folks are preparing their questions.
PRINCE TURKI: Yes, sir.
MR. LOCKE: And perhaps I can be the foil or the fall guy and ask some of the obvious questions that people might have on their minds.
But one is, how does Saudi Arabia and some of the other countries in the Middle East feel about the possibility of Iran developing nuclear materials? And do you really believe that there’s a threat of Iran developing nuclear weapons? And what threat could Iran pose for the rest of the region?
PRINCE TURKI: What I can tell you is our view on atomic weapons in the area. It would be remiss of me, as a diplomat, to consider another country’s politics, particularly in relation to their relationship with the United States.
We view the presence of atomic weapons in our part of the world as totally unacceptable. And for many years we have proposed that the Middle East become a nuclear-free zone, and we ask all the countries in the Middle East to adhere to that policy, including Iran and including Israel and including Iraq and including Egypt and Saudi Arabia. And all of the countries in there should not have any nuclear weapons at all, not only nuclear weapons, but any weapons of mass destruction, whether they be chemical or biological, as well as nuclear.
And we would like to see international guarantees for the countries in the area to protect them from any threats that they may get from any nuclear power that is present in the world.
MR. LOCKE: Iran, on the other hand, counters and says that they’re developing nuclear materials for power, for – not for weapons of mass destruction and not for nuclear weapons. What assurances do we have? And should we allow Iran to develop its nuclear power capabilities the way that other countries in the Middle East have done so – as you mentioned, Egypt, Israel – for power generation? How should we approach that delicate issue of peaceful purposes of nuclear material?
PRINCE TURKI: I believe in the proposal that I mentioned: having a nuclear-free Middle East with international guarantees. That is the guarantee that will prevent any country from developing ambitions about having nuclear weapons. And therefore, that will apply to all of the countries, including Iran.
MR. LOCKE: Well, does Saudi Arabia believe Iran when Iran’s leaders say that they are not intent on developing nuclear weapons and that they only want to pursue peaceful use of nuclear material?
PRINCE TURKI: We talk to our Iranian neighbors as we talk to our Egyptian neighbors and other countries in the area, and other countries in the area talk to our Iranian neighbors as well. And I think if we are to guarantee that nobody can, if you like, get out of the mold of a peaceful and secure and safe geographic entity which is the Middle East, devoid of weapons of mass destruction, then we should give those guarantees to all the countries that there will be no weapons of mass destruction, including the nuclear weapons.
MR. LOCKE: I think another question that’s on the minds of people is, given the historically close relationship between the Wahhabi school of Islam and the royal family of Saudi Arabia, how do you react to accusations that the Wahhabi school is the inspiration behind Islamic terrorism?
PRINCE TURKI: Well, I would say that that is based mostly on ignorance of and misunderstanding of where we come from. I give you a small example. A group like al Qaeda led by Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri and others from various disciplines and walks of life in the Middle East and the Arab world, they believe, for example, in the killing of innocent life and the destruction of property and in overturning established orders in any country, whether Islamic or non- Islamic.
All of these three principal issues are not accepted by so- called – this will be in quotation marks – “Wahhabis and the followers of Sheikh Mohammed and Abd al Wahhab,” who taught very Orthodox branch of Islam, which is called the Hanbali school. It is part of the four schools of Sunni Islam along with the Shafi’i, Maliki and Hanafi schools.
So most of the assertions that you mentioned, Governor, come out of, as I told you, ignorance of what – between quotation marks – “Wahhabi thought and Wahhabi teaching is,” and I bet you all the experts who may have said that, if you ask them, have they read any book on Wahhabism, they will tell you no. And there are several good books on Wahhabism on the market today, and I would advise anybody who has an interest in that to read a book by a lady called [Natana] DeLong-Bas, and you will have her name passed onto you. She’s an American lady. She did her research mostly in America, Saudi Arabia and other places, and she has a very definitive book on Sheikh Mohammed and Abd Al-Wahhab and his teachings.
MR. LOCKE: So finally, before I turn to the questions from the audience, in light of the social, political and economic advancements of Women’s International and the increased number of women in positions of power all around the world, can you describe the role of women in Saudi society and the near absence of women in public office and in government?
PRINCE TURKI: I will say that historically speaking, men folk, if you like, have been very misogynistic towards women, and the oppression of women in all societies was a standard rather than an exception. And if I may refer to your own experience in the United States, when your Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, they paid no attention to the rights of women. They were not allowed to vote, they were not allowed to own property. In many cases they were not allowed to inherit even from their folks.
We in Saudi Arabia are moving forward on this issue. Our social structure was pretty much like your social structure when you did not recognize these rights for women. But if you look at today, for example, university graduates in Saudi Arabia, more than 55 percent of them now are women with a better record of academic achievements than their male counterparts. There are more than 40,000 businesses owned by women in Saudi Arabia. And the stock market, which is composed of nearly now 3 million Saudis investing directly in shares, and so on, a third of that number are women.
And in government positions, whether it is in the undersecretary of the Ministry of Education or in other institutions, women have taken their place, In some of our non- government organizations, like the Engineers Association or the Jeddah Chamber of Business Council, women have been elected to the director’s office in these groups.
So women are moving forward in the Kingdom. We admit that we started a bit late on that issue, but we’re going in the right direction. And I think pretty soon you will see more and more women even in the diplomatic service, because the Foreign Ministry has issued applications for lady diplomats to join the foreign service. And we will take it on from there.
MR. LOCKE: A question from the audience. What are one or two things that you think the United States can do to contribute to stability and cooperation in the Middle East that they’re not doing right now?
PRINCE TURKI: I think the important thing not just for the United States, but for the world community, is to implement the various plans that have been drawn up over the years for Middle East peace.
If we go back to 1970, there was a plan put by William Rogers, who was then secretary of State under President Nixon, followed in the late ’70s by the efforts of President Carter, which succeeded between Egypt and Israel, but left much to be accomplished along Palestine. In the 1980s, President Reagan presented several peace plans in our area. President Bush senior had the Madrid conference and what followed from there. Under President Clinton we had the Oslo agreements and then the discussions in Camp David and again in Sharm el-Sheikh and Taba. President Bush – the present President Bush drew up the two-state solution and the road map.
But none of these proposals or ideas have been implemented on the ground. Now, the road map has procedures for implementation, with responsibility on both Israel and the Palestinians to undertake certain actions to make sure that the road map is implemented, but nobody has taken – has made the efforts to implement it and put it in practice. I think that is what is needed for peace in the Middle East.
MR. LOCKE: If you were advising President Bush and the administration, if you were the secretary of State or Condoleezza Rice, how would you advise – what should the United States position be to the issue of Iraq? Is Iraq in the midst of a civil war? Should the United States withdraw as soon as possible?
PRINCE TURKI: I think the issue of Iraq is not an issue of definition. People say it’s a civil war, others say it’s a sectarian war, some in the administration say that it’s simply an insurgency. What is important is for the Iraqi people to be allowed to achieve their own ambitions for security and stability.
And we’ve seen a process for that that started – lacking, if you like, in legitimacy – by the appointment through a foreign power, which was the United States, of an interim government. But then it became more legitimate as time went on and free elections were held, most recently last December, when most of the Iraqi people voted in those elections, nearly 70 percent of the Iraqi population voted for those elections. And they included participation by all factions in Iraq.
So we can say that the present Parliament in Iraq is the most legitimate and the most sovereign institution in Iraq today. And the government that will come out of this Parliament will, by the nature of the Parliament itself, will also be legitimate and sovereign. And I think it is for them, then, to enter into negotiations with the United States and the other allied countries who have troops in Iraq as to when those troops should be withdrawn.
Because let’s not forget these troops came into Iraq uninvited, but I think it would be a tragedy and a catastrophe if they were to leave uninvited. I think they – the process for leaving Iraq should be negotiated between the Iraqi people and the countries that came into Iraq, like the United States, the UK and other countries.
MR. LOCKE: You mentioned the role of women – the emerging role of women – some of the greater freedoms in Saudi Arabia. There has been a lot of controversy about the Chinese government censoring the Internet, controlling and shutting down sites and so forth. What is the role of – or how does your government plan to allow more unrestricted Internet access for your citizens?
PRINCE TURKI: My government is pretty much like other governments. It tends to look upon itself as an arbiter of people’s modes and people’s cultures and people’s ideas. And from that sense it is not any different, let’s say, than the German government, which also places restrictions on access to the Internet. And I think even in your country there are certain restrictions when it comes to issues like pornography and particularly child pornography and things like that.
So in today’s world, I think all bureaucracies don’t appreciate that the electronic age is much quicker and more efficient than their ability to restrict. So I think whether it is in China or Saudi Arabia or the United States or Japan or Germany or whatever, people will find a way of finding – of getting to what they want on the Internet. Then government can be able to restrict them from it.
They just make it a bit harder, but in the end, I think you and I and others who are – though I wouldn’t consider myself very conversant with the computer, but those who are really have no restrictions on them, and can get to whatever they want. So in the final analysis, I think it’s basically the people who judge you that will make whether things are acceptable or not.
MR. LOCKE: What will it take for your country, Saudi Arabia, to recognize Israel?
PRINCE TURKI: Many things. King Abdullah has put a plan forward when he was conferenced in 2002 to the Arab Summit Conference in Beirut in which he proposed the following: The Arab world will recognize Israel, and extend diplomatic and normalization of relations with Israel, in return for Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories and East Jerusalem. And that is where we stand by that issue. All the Arab countries, including the Palestinian Authority, have signed up for that plan, and it is still on the table.
MR. LOCKE: Do you think that the Dubai ports failure – the controversy over Dubai ports – will affect US relations with your country and the other countries of the Middle East?
PRINCE TURKI: It will inevitably leave residue of uncertainty, to say the least. It’s not resentment. And I think President Bush put it in the right context when he said that this issue should not be an issue based on race. It should not be an issue of Arab or English or Chinese or whatever. And for that, many people in our part of the world have thanked the president for this position. Unfortunately, as I understand when I am traveling around your country and meeting with people like yourself, I hear from many of you that this time of year and just before the elections coming in November is called the “silly season.” And I see –
MR. LOCKE: Some people say that silly season gets longer and longer every year.
PRINCE TURKI: (Laughs.) So I’m sure there people who are making politics out of this issue, but it is unfortunate. And today in the press I was reading about a Chinese company that is getting a contract to inspect for radiation in ports in the Bahamas, which are exporting to the United States. Why a Chinese company and not a Dubai company? Or, I don’t know, an Italian company or a Polish company or whatever. It just leaves that bitter aftertaste when we hear that it is because an Arab company that it’s been taken off the list.
MR. LOCKE: I’m sure the scrutiny will come with respect to that Chinese company.
PRINCE TURKI: What?
MR. LOCKE: That’ll be next. (Laughter.) Like you said, it’s the silly season, it’s going to get longer. The elections are approaching.
Well, that brings up the issue of – you’ve been here for quite some time as a student, and now as an ambassador traveling the country. What have you noticed about America from your days as a student to now? What changes have you seen in America? And what are some of the things that you lament about America? Both the positive and the negative changes.
PRINCE TURKI: Well, I believe like all countries America has changed a great deal in the past 40 years. And as I understand from American friends as well, that the events of September 11 even made it more change than it was before then. And I think what I do appreciate very much about America is the renewability, if you like, of your society and your political system.
As I understand it, your democracy is still considered by yourself as a work in progress. It is not a definitive system of government, but rather a changing system of government that your society, as it develops, will evolve and develop with the society.
And that allows for one important issue that I think America is not necessarily unique in, but definitely has a lot of experience in, and that is the fact that Americans in general, I think, enjoy the issue of having recourse whenever there is a wrong or a mistreatment or misjudgment undertaken either by your government or even by your society.
And I think individual Americans, as we were talking over the table at lunch, for example, of Japanese origin who were mistreated during the Second World War – 40 years later, they had recourse, because there was somebody there in American society, whether officially or otherwise, who continued to carry the banner, if you like, of rectifying that mistake that took place during the Second World War.
And other developments in America, whether it is in the civil rights movement, in the treatment of women, in the treatment of minorities, and in business cycle, in politics, and so on, there is always a chance for someone to get their rights back if they have been either mistreated or those rights have been infringed upon by somebody.
And that is what I think makes America so attractive to so many people from all over the world who come to America as refugees or as immigrants and seekers of a better way of life. And we in our part of the world are learning to achieve that kind of system whereby nobody’s rights and nobody’s mishaps will go without recourse. This is, I think, the most positive thing, in my mind, of what makes America so great and the American people so open and welcome to the different varieties of people from the rest of the world.
What is to lament, I think, is, in my days, America was a much simpler place. (Chuckles.) I think this is probably true of the rest of the world – where things were much clearer, perhaps, in our minds. In those days, if you remember, in the ‘60s, it was a question of the rest of the world against the communist threat. And you could define that communist threat and, as it were, draw a line and put yourself on either side of it and be sure that you’re clear about it.
Today it is less clear in outlook. People, in my view and in my country, at least, from my experience, are less certain about where they stand today than perhaps 40 years ago. But I think that’s not unique to America, but it is something to lament.
MR. LOCKE: Following up on that, the relationships between the government of the United States and the Middle East are very strained, very tense, whether it’s Israel and the Palestinian state, Iraq, Iran. And it has, as you said, made Americans more apprehensive, a little bit more cautious toward people of Islamic states.
How do you – how would you suggest that we bridge those divides and bring the peoples closer together?
PRINCE TURKI: Simply by doing that, by bringing people together. And your council here, as I heard, its activities in bringing Palestinian and Israeli ladies to talk about their problems, or other people from other issues.
We, as I said in my talk, enlarging our scholarship program for students to go abroad is one way of doing it. We’re working now with your government on establishing a scholarship program also for American students to come to Saudi Arabia. And that is, I think, the best way of getting over the stereotypes that develop on both sides. Inasmuch as you have your stereotypes about us, we also have our stereotypes about you.
MR. LOCKE: What are some of those stereotypes of Americans that are – (laughter) –
PRINCE TURKI: (Laughs.) Well, you’ve put me in it now! (Laughter.)
MR. LOCKE: It’s not YOUR stereotype –
PRINCE TURKI: I know.
MR. LOCKE: – it’s the stereotypes held by some of the – of your citizens.
PRINCE TURKI: Well, I think it is not just about America, about the West in general. You have to start from the Crusades, you know, people who have come to occupy and to destroy and to kill and to pillage, and things like that. That’s the historic and sort of way in the background that comes up – when there is a crisis, people will revert back to it and say, "Ah, you see, these are the Crusaders coming back again."
Another stereotype I think is from colonial days. And I can say that in Saudi Arabia we don’t have that because we were never colonized. But in countries like Egypt, and the Fertile Crescent, and Iraq, and India, and Pakistan, and Indonesia, and so on, who were colonized, is the stereotype of the colonial who, in Rudyard Kipling’s words, if you like, “came to carry the white man’s burden,” which is to civilize the uncivilized and barbaric natives of Africa or Asia or parts of Latin America. That’s another stereotype that comes to the fore when things go bad.
More recently, of course, in our part of the world is the stereotype of the Israeli occupier of Palestine and the treatment of Palestinians at the hands of Israeli soldiers, and so on.
These are images that affect people of all ages in our part of the world.
There are some good stereotypes. Many people are still of the opinion that there was an opportunity, manque, if you like, when President Wilson presented his 14 points after the First World War, which really heightened the sense of hope and aspiration for the colonized countries in those days to seek independence from the colonialists, because President Wilson carried the banner of freedom for oppressed people and for occupied people and so on and human rights and so on. That stereotypes is also there for people to refer back to when things are going good for us.
In the Kingdom, we have a special affection for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who in 1945, being at the height of American power and just coming out of the Yalta agreement with Stalin and Churchill, made a point of getting on a ship in the Red Sea and meeting with our king at the time, King Abdulaziz. And for those of you who don’t know this, he did it even though it was Valentine’s Day – (chuckles) – February 14th. And the two of them meeting together on the Quincy, that naval ship, in the Bitter Lake in the Red Sea, has remained, if you like, almost a legendary picture of the king sitting opposite Roosevelt and talking about issues that affected the two countries. So that stereotype is alive and well.
And just as a sideline, if you like, on this February 14th back in Washington, although I was not there, the embassy managed to collect all the sailors who had been on the Quincy that are still alive today and bring them to Washington with their families to get together and reminisce about that situation. And it was a great occasion to see these 70- or 80-year-olds remembering how Roosevelt wheeled down the gangway and into the deck of the ship as he was waiting for King Abdulaziz to come from another ship that brought him to the Quincy, and the king walking down, and his robes and so on, and the impression that he left on them and so on. So it was a great occasion for all of us. And that picture is alive in many Saudis’ minds still.
MR. LOCKE: Throughout your travels in the United States, what are the two or three things that you would like Americans to know about Saudi Arabia, your country?
PRINCE TURKI: The first, of course, is that we are pretty much human beings, we didn’t come from Mars or Pluto – (laughter) – although we do wear skirts – (laughter) – but the skirt-wearers in America are a very important part of American society – and that we have similar ambitions to yours; we want a better life for our children and our grandchildren, to live in peace and harmony; that we want to be contributing to the betterment of the world, and we think we can be.
We have a long history and tradition, although we are still a young country. But that history and culture and background gives us the wherewithal to work with people like yourself in marching forward and meeting the challenges that face the world community, whether it is poverty or disease or terrorism or whatever.
MR. LOCKE: Thank you very much for coming to the real Washington and presenting your credentials.
PRINCE TURKI: (Chuckles.) Thank you, sir.
MR. LOCKE: And Your Royal Highness, Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much for a great discussion.
PRINCE TURKI: Thank you, Governor. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
MR. MONCASTER: We’ve gone from Iran and weapons, the role of women, Middle East peace, Internet access, Israel, the Dubai Ports and impressions of the United States.
Please remain seated.
This is the work of the World Affairs Council – creating these authentic voices and these authentic conversations in our community. We do this on behalf of our members and our sponsors, and I’d like to thank again Aero Law, Boeing and the Microsoft Corporation and all those of you in this room who are members. It’s because of you that we’re able to do this.
It’s really important that we get good information, and I know that the ambassador would like to get feedback on his presentations. What did you learn? How do you think about these things differently? So I encourage you to take a look at this green form that’s inside your program and ask that you fill this out. There will be someone collecting them as you go out the door. It’s important for us to get this feedback.
And I want to draw your attention to a couple other programs with authentic voices. On April 3rd, we’re having a conversation about what should the U.S. conversation be with regard to Israel and Palestine. We have Ed Abbington, who’s represented the PLO in the United States, long-term foreign service employee. We have Jonathan Jacoby, who is the head of the Israeli Policy Forum, looking at two- state solutions. And how do we think about this conversation as we go forward?
On May 5th, we have the U.S. ambassador to Korea and the Korean ambassador to the U.S. – again, a series of authentic conversations about what should we be doing, how do we think about the world.
We’re running discussion groups about the conversation between here and Brazil, and we have Mark Kimmit, who is from Central Command, coming to talk about human rights and terrorism. How do we think about those issues?
These are the kinds of issues that we want to be able to do, and we’re particularly fortunate today to have an incredible conversation with Prince Turki with regard to the U.S. role and Saudi Arabia.
Thank you again, Governor Locke, for moderating, and thank you again, Prince Turki. (Applause.) Please remain seated. I ask that you all – the prince is on a very tight schedule. I ask you to remain – all remain seated until he is off to some media engagements.